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Cumann Merriman’s 45th annual Scoil Gheimhridh/Winter School in Westport

Cumann Merriman will be returning to Westport, Co. Mayo, for the 11th time in all the weekend of 1-3 February for their 45th annual Irish language Scoil Gheimhridh (Winter School). The theme this year is ‘An Cultúr Dúchais – ó thinteáin go hilmheáin’ (‘Traditional Culture - from firesides to multimedia.’) and the directors are Máire Ní Neachtain (Head of the Irish Department, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick) and Liam Ó Dochartaigh, current Cathaoirleach of Cumann Merriman.

The organisers feel that the topics to be discussed in Westport are very relevant in 21st century Ireland.  Our self-image depends heavily on a belief that our agriculture is ‘green’ and the country generally environmentally-friendly; we’re also thought of as being rich in traditional culture, carefully conserved for future generations. There is no doubt that aspects of traditional culture have successfully negotiated the transition into modernity, for instance, gaelic games and traditional music and dance, but other aspects of our folklore and folklife inheritance have been less successful  in maintaining a presence. 

Now that the traditional, and mainly rural, ways of living have all but vanished, the presentation of traditional culture is a matter of concern to people in many sectors, e.g. in education, the media,  cultural institutions and the heritage area generally, not to mention people’s daily lives, and is also a feature of many tourism offerings. How then might traditional culture be presented, or relevant,or accessed, in a changed and ever-changing Ireland? What is the future of the traditional verbal arts in Irish or English?

Among the distinguished list of speakers at the 2013 Scoil Gheimhridh will be the following well-known authorities in the area of folklore and tradition, Professor emeritus Séamas Ó Catháin (UCD), no stranger to county Mayo, Dr Pádraig Ó Héalaí (NUIG), Dr Lillis Ó Laoire (NUIG), Nicholas Carolan (Irish Traditional Music Archive), Dr Stiofán Ó Cadhla (UCC), and the well-known author and folklore scholar, Éilís Ní Dhuibhne Almqvist.

As well as the customary lectures and seminars, book launches, and lively social scene in Westport, the programme includes a visit on Saturday afternoon to the highly-regarded National Museum of Country Life in Turlough Park, Castlebar.  Club Merriman in Hotel Westport on Friday and Saturday nights will have Máirtín Mac Donnchadha (RTÉ Raidió Gaeltachta) as ‘fear an tí’ and music by local musicians ‘Gráinne Mhaol’, a repeat of last year’s successful line-up.  Mayo-man Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin’s entertaining  presentation on Sunday morning will draw on traditional song and other forms of traditional verbal arts.

The full programme of events is available here: Cumann Merriman - Scoil Gheimhridh 2013 - Clár

Posted: 28/01/2013
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